How do you help develop a better relationship with your congregation

The Bible talks a lot about fellowship. The gospel is spread through fellowshipping. You don’t read of a lone Wolf Christian in the Bible and instead you read of communities that seemed to break bread together often, met at each other’s houses, and helped support each other to the point it seems they were possibly selling off extra houses or downsizing. It’s easy to get along with a group when you all share lots of the same views or when the congregation is a series of clicks instead of a family. How do you let the differences go when they are important to you and a major part of your life but still remain authentic of who you are? For me it often feels fake and dishonest when others are talking about something like YEC and mentioning tons of things I believe can easily be refuted. A pastor once told me there is a big difference between being right and being righteous and I struggle with it. When I hear people talking about something like dinosaurs and humans living together I just want to correct them. Often I don’t and then I feel like it my silence is contributing to their further belief. Or I’ll mention it a few times, and I know they will know , but they will simply carry on about it while we are hanging out and I know if I disagree even 50% of the time it will be divisive. So I begin to feel fake through silence or pretending like what they said carries some weight and down the road I just feel like a wall is basically there.

I’m using myself as a example but it’s not personal. Just wanting to line out what my question concerns on how do you build real relationships with a congregation where you maintain it in a big way through silence but that silence makes it feel fake and means the connection on your end just feel less than what it use to. That as time goes instead of bonds getting deeper that actually feel weaker.

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I’ve been experiencing this too. In my church background, “Christ unites us.” Yet it seems as if the message of scripture, the message of the worship songs, is meant to have the same interpretation by everyone. It’s been difficult to worship because it’s too easy to envision “God fighting my battles” and blessing and being faithful to me only really applies if I have this particular interpretation that everyone else in the room has. When we talk about sin and evil in my church setting, it doesn’t always seem to be about the same thing. When we talk about who God is gracious to, it’s not the same people. When we mention “the world”, it’s supposed to mean the people who believe in science and CRT and the LGBTQ+ community, and even those churches over there who aren’t really as dedicated to scripture as us. Church is lonely, and I certainly don’t know how I connect to the Body of Christ in this place where we are supposed to fellowship and be the living, breathing, extension and expression of Christ. We talk about God’s unconditional love, but what we talk about demonstrates that it’s actually very conditional. I’m definitely lost right now as to how to strengthen these bonds, but I hope and trust that there is a purpose for being present in peace and offering a different insight every once in a while… Although it would be great to be a functioning member of the Body instead of one that’s just hanging on :slight_smile:

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I too struggle with this. I love the people in my church but there is so much Christian nationalism and conspiracy stuff and culture war that it gets hard sometimes. You are not alone in this although finding a “perfect” community is probably an non-sensical and not-God ordained unicorn.

@skove

I hope to connect on loving people and God. Not sure how to bridge the wall, even what “loving” or who should count as “people” is divisive. The meat sacrifice discussion seems to capture some of that aspect but other things like rejecting vaccines, promoting gender conversion therapy, or global warming actually hurt people so its pretty hard.

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Church community can be like extended family (or maybe even immediate family!) - you are thrust in with a lot of variety that perhaps you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself if you were trying to rationally align with only the likeminded. But even so, if you are in a fellowship of any substantial size, it would be highly probable that you aren’t the only one harboring those secret feelings in the group. If you can join in (or at least try out) some small group subsets within the church where sharing can be a bit more intimate and trust built, you might discover that you aren’t alone with your concerns. But that will be highly variable in small group settings too - which aren’t always small enough. Because even there - the number of people involved may prevent real sharing as people are still maintaining what they perceive needs to be “the desired church image” to that group as well. In the ideal small group, there is enough trust and relationship established that people feel they can at least begin to be real around each other.

-Merv

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As far as I can tell, 50 isn’t large enough to get that (beyond my immediate family).

I also feel isolated and out of place in our congregation at times. I know a few people who I relate to but for the most part, most are content to avoid deep discussions, particularly about difficult subjects like evolution. I have tried several bible study groups, but find they are usually dominated by superficial discussions dominated by stock platitudes, and often discuss right leaning celebrity authors like Eric Metaxes.
I almost never bring up origins issues, but when someone makes a blatantly false statement, find I have to comment on it, which usually leads to crickets rather than further discussion.
It is good to have this place to provide an outlet, but it does not fulfill the need for fellowship. Fortunately there are still times I relate to others more intimately but overall, find a longing for a better way.

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I think sometimes it helps to get involved in some kind of ministry you believe in, whether it’s helping resettle refugees or participating in a recovery group or tutoring underprivileged kids or whatever. Then you are more likely to meet Christians who share your most basic values.

Also, I think the most vocal people in the room don’t usually represent the views of “everyone” even though it can feel like it. I’ve gotten numerous Facebook messages from people I barely know from my church over the last few years saying things like, “I feel like I can trust you to give me good feedback on X” or “thank you so much for speaking up about X, I thought I was the only one.” I don’t get in arguments with people or challenge every idea I disagree with, but once in a while I proactively put stuff out there about what I think on politics, science, or Christian witness. You really never know who is paying attention and silently agreeing in a group conversation or online interaction. And often it’s the silent participants who have the most open minds and are trying to learn and figure stuff out, not the vocal ones who have already decided they are right about everything and make the interactions feel pointless.

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This is a great idea! I try to prioritize this, and it certainly has blessed me with like-minded fellowship, although this year, and with having young kids in general, it can be very difficult to be more than rarely involved. Sharing our interests with each other usually has a lot of potential to bring people together, yet when these things that we have experience in and enjoy are brought up in church, like @SkovandOfMitaze connecting via his knowledge and insight to the natural world and myself attempting to connect with small group members via cultural experiences, are met with those crickets! Maybe this is a symptom of areas being compartmentalized into political idea groupings or industrialized church roles, instead of humbly discipling and growing alongside all different members of the Body of Christ?

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Somebody commented that one of Jesus’ lesser known miracles was that of having 12 close friends in his 30s!

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Perhaps you could garner some interest in a discussion group centered on which groups of people are so leperous as to be beyond fellowship or any measure of salvation.

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Yeah, this is tough for me too. I don’t want to be divisive and am more comfortable just listening, usually, but I also don’t want to give someone the false impression that I agree with their misleading or flat-out-false ideas. It’s a difficult balance between pushing someone away and feeling like I’m faking it, and I’m having a harder time faking it lately. I think learning to disagree well is a valuable skill and one I haven’t given myself much chance to develop.

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This would be a very pointed question to ask and one appropriately applied to many discussions about “others.” :slight_smile:

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Logistics and time of life are factors, too. The church I attend is a 45 minute drive (I think for most other members it’s on the order of 15 or less), I’m “elderly” (I’m in my anecdotage, at least, because I can’t remember to whom I’ve told what story :slightly_smiling_face:), and my wife is semi-invalid (we say “semi-inˈvalid” :slightly_smiling_face:).

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Distance wise, we are about the same (45, most people are within 20).

We are toward the younger end of our congregation, though.

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Sometimes you just outgrow your church. It’s very depressing because you’ve spent so much time there, but sometimes it is best to move on.

How do you determine where to move on to?

When the atmosphere become unbearable and you can’t breathe and your brain is screaming.

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I know for me moving on is not the route I’m going to take. Plus, the churches I go to, are all mostly Churches of Christ. I’m happy with everything except a few things but I know of a local church that accepts and teaches evolution as the way god advanced life but doctrinally everything else we are completely different.

Its like Laura said. Perhaps the route is to learn how to disagree better and so that’s what I’m going to look into. I’m not going to try to change their minds and I also know I can’t continue being silent 90% of the time and so I’ll try to find a way to disagree better and perhaps set up a series of classes there for anyone interested and include within it a time for questions at the end of which I’ll respond to in the next class. One of the elders there also believes as I do but is leaving to go to a other congregation in another county.

I am close to them and we do a lot of things together snd there are about 4-6 members out of roughly 200 that are in agreement with me about it. I’m sure something will give snd work.

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Not so much how to, but where to move on to. God’s providence played a role in my last move, eleven years ago when I was looking. I’m sure you’re surprised to hear that. :slightly_smiling_face: (I was invited to a church under false pretenses by a pastor, there was a church split within a year – effectively two different congregations were meeting together as one – he left with his group and I stayed.)

That is a good question. it was easy for me since I live on the East Coast and have plenty of good choices and plenty of diversity. In some areas of the country things are pretty monochrome.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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